Tag Archives: michael caine

The Italian Job (1969 & 2003)

4 Aug

There are movies that really succeed at capturing a certain time period and a very specific attitude, and one of the finest examples of this may be the 1969 British crime classic, The Italian Job. It’s cool, funny, and captures the time and place very well while also succeeding as a really entertaining caper flick. After getting a pretty good game for the Playstation 1, the movie got revisited once again in 2003 with a remake by F. Gary Gray. It’s makes me happy to say that both films work very well together and a lot of fun can be had with the original and also the remake.

Of course, we’re going to start with the 1969 classic.

The_Italian_Job_1969_poster

After being released from a stretch in prison, Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) has a chance to turn his life around and fit in with normal society, but he’s just too good at what he does. With a plan already started by his recently deceased mentor and friend Roger (Rossano Brazzi), Croker starts getting a crew together to go to Turin, Italy to steal $4 million and escape to Geneva. None of this would be possible without a lot of funding, so Croker goes to Mr. Bridger (Noël Coward), who runs his criminal empire from prison, to finance it. With the money and the crew ready, the team heads to Turin to finish the job, but the mafia is on to them and will stop at nothing to keep the $4 million in Italy.

Since the time of its release, The Italian Job has grown into an iconic film filled with imagery that is immediately recognizable. Even before I saw this movie, I’d see a Mini Cooper drive down the street and my mind would go straight to The Italian Job. Maybe I just think about movies too much. Anyway, there’s plenty of great reasons why this film has achieved this status. One of the biggest reasons is the famous chase scene involving the three Mini Coopers making their escape out of Turin. This scene is reason enough to watch this movie, and it ranks as one of the greatest car chases ever filmed. It’s a blast to watch and it’s probably the best example of precision stunt driving in a movie. It almost seems like a scene that’s existed since movies first began, but it had it’s beginnings here in an action movie that never knew the legacy it would create.

While the action sequences are excellent, The Italian Job is also well known for its characters, writing, and soundtrack. The characters are a lot of fun, and Michael Caine and Noël Coward play the two leads with glee. Caine is perfect as the criminal everyone has to love. He’s cool, stylish, and has a temper that is good for a laugh. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie actually are played by Coward, whose Mr. Bridger practically runs the prison that he’s held in. The soundtrack by Quincy Jones is very cool and extremely catchy. I challenge anyone to listen to the theme song and have it not get stuck in your head.

To put it simply, the original version of The Italian Job is a super cool movie and has some of the most iconic and memorable scenes in film history. I honestly don’t think anyone working on this movie knew the legacy this movie would have, but it’s one of those movies that has to be seen to understand why it deserves such a status as a classic.

Let’s move on to 2003 to look at the remake. Normally, I’m not too thrilled about remakes, but the cast and F. Gary Gray in the director’s chair is enough to make someone interested.

Italianjob

Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) is the head of a gang of very talented thieves (Jason Statham, Mos Def, and Seth Green) who along with Charlie’s mentor, John Bridger (Donal Sutherland) and their inside man Steve (Edward Norton) pull off a major heist involving $34 million of gold and escaping Venice. The job goes off without a hitch, but the gang is quickly double crossed by Steve who steals all the gold and leaves the gang for dead in the Alps. What Steve doesn’t know is that the gang got out of the mountains alive and want their gold back. Charlie enlists the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), a safe cracker working on the other side of the law, to help them with their heist. This time, it isn’t about the money, it’s about payback.

This movie has a lot going for it and it’s honestly a pretty good movie. F. Gary Gray is a director that really has an idea of what he wants and handles action and suspense very well, which is necessary for a movie like this. In fact, there are elements of this movie that are handled better than in the original. The main improvement is the gang that Charlie’s the head of. In the original, we never really get a chance to know anyone that’s part of the heist other than Michael Caine’s character. In the remake, they’re all established as close friends, have distinct personalities, and all have something important to do during the heists. The actors have great chemistry and there is plenty of room for comedy and drama throughout the movie.

The action scenes are really cool and pay good homage to the original film. Believe it or not, the scene with the Mini Coopers is a little underwhelming compared to the first movie, but there are plenty of other scenes to make up for it. One cool scene happens in the beginning as Statham and Green are making a quick escape through Venetian canals on a speed boat. Any scene with Edward Norton is also very memorable. His villainous character just oozes with smug confidence that just makes you wanna slap that grin off his face.

While the 2003 version of The Italian Job is a really well made and fun movie, I still prefer the fast paced wackiness of the original. Still, this is a remake that works very well for many different reasons. The most important thing is that while it honors the legacy of the original, it stands alone as its own movie.

So there you have it. The legacy of The Italian Job is definitely a strong one, and only a movie that good could create something like it. Any fan of the action/crime genre should definitely give both of these movies a look. They’re really cool and a whole lot of fun.

Advertisements

A Bridge Too Far – Review

18 Nov

It’s easy to make a war film that celebrates victory, but I can’t say the same about making a film that tells the story of an overwhelming defeat. Film history is sort of lacking in movie that tell the story of missions or operations that have gone terribly wrong. Arguably, one of the most notorious failures was Operation Market Garden, which happened after D-Day as World War II was coming to a close. Director Richard Attenborough and screenwriter William Goldman took Cornelius Ryan’s in depth book examining the loss and turned it into the grand World War II epic, A Bridge Too Far.

02f5369b5e240ed289f1a9418edf89ab

On September 17, 1944, Operation Market Garden was put into effect by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. The plan was to drop 35,000 men behind enemy lines and secure a series of bridges so that ground forces could cross them on the way to liberate Arnhem. After only a few days of preparation, the mission began and things soon begin to go very wrong. This film follows different people through different locations and problems, among them being Staff Sgt. Eddie Dohun (James Caan), Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart (Sean Connery), and Lt. Col. John Frost (Anthony Hopkins). As the mission drags on a lot longer than it should have, supplies begin to run low and more soldiers fall victim to the desperate Nazi soldiers.

This films may be one of the most “star studded” movies I’ve ever seen. I almost can’t believe how many people they got to sign on this project. I’ve already mentioned James Caan, Sean Connery, and Anthony Hopkins but the list doesn’t end there. A Bridge Too Far also features Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Ryan O’Neal, Michael Caine, Maximilian Schell, and Laurence Olivier. With a cast like this, you would expect a lot of really emotional and hard hitting performances, but in this case you would be wrong. Sure, the acting is great, but A Bridge Too Far is far from being an emotional powerhouse. In fact, save for a few scenes, this is a pretty cold and objective look at Market Garden.

a_bridge_too_far_film_youre_much_too_noisy-640x360

With this huge amount of actors, it’s pretty obvious that there’s also a huge cast of characters. There’s British soldiers, American soldiers, and Polish soldiers to keep track of along with a couple of scenes of important Nazi soldiers. There came a point in the movie where someone was asking about how others were doing, and I didn’t know who they were talking about. I still have a hard time remembering who was who. I don’t think that’s really my fault either because so much is crammed into this movie. Even at 3 hours long, I felt like it could have gone on for even longer since some of the characters never really got their story arc fully realized. That’s part of the reason why I say this is a very cold war movie rather than an emotionally intense one.

Now while this is a pretty detached move doesn’t mean it doesn’t get pretty wild. There are scenes in this movie that are some of the coolest I’ve seen in a war movie because they feel huge and are executed with perfection. One scene in particular shows the thousands of men being dropped out of gliders, with some of them being show from a first person perspective. There’s also no music playing during this part which makes it extra effective. Some other great scenes include the air force bombing Nazi forces entrenched in a forested area and the nail biting assault on Nijmegen Bridge. There is unfortunately a lot of down time between some of the other better scenes, which often makes everything feel uneven at times.

A Bridge Too Far certainly can’t be called the best World War II film ever made due to some of its glaring issues with character and pacing. There’s so much stuffed into this movie, there really was no way to give every event or character a chance to develop fully without making this some sort of miniseries. Still, there are plenty of scenes that stand out as something truly special. The scale of this movie is large enough to fit the shoes of such a military blunder as Market Garden. If anything, this movie should still be viewed to get an interesting look at history and also for its extraordinary cast.

Interstellar – Review

19 Nov

It’s happened. It’s finally happened… All those years of watching movies of different genres, spirits, moods, and messages, and it’s finally happened. My brain should now be legally defined as mush. Christopher Nolan’s newest film, Interstellar is the new way to look at science fiction. There has been a series lack of space exploration movies that doesn’t have the Star Trek label. Really only Europa Report and Prometheus come to mind, but now we have Interstellar to add to the top of the list of science fiction.

interstellar3

In the near future, Earth’s resources have been slowly disappearing leaving a barely surviving agrarian society. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former NASA pilot turned farmer who is recruited by Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) to travel through a wormhole found by Saturn. This wormhole leads to another galaxy where other scientists have begin studying different planets orbiting a black hole. Cooper is joined by three other scientists, including Brand’s daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway). The mission starts to experience some major problems, while the situation on Earth gets even more complicated when Brand reveals his plan isn’t as promising as he originally described it to be leaving Cooper’s daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain) to keep society from mass panic.

This is probably one of the best science fiction movies of the past decade, and may very well be the best science fiction movie of the past decade. I always figured Inception to be Nolan’s masterpiece, but Interstellar changes things. There are scenes in this movie that are absolutely mind blowing. It’s like Nolan took Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, and Doctor Who and just mushed it all together into one giant mosh pit of sci fi. It’s both quiet and majestic, while being equally intense and explosive. It’s hard to take your eyes off of it, even for a second.

INTERSTELLAR

 

I’m a stickler for run times as I’ve made it quite clear so I was concerned when I saw Interstellar has close to a 3 hour run time. I don’t mind if a movie is long, but if it is, I don’t want that time to be wasted on scenes that really have no place in the finished movie. This isn’t a problem for this movie, and it’s equally impressive that Christopher and Jonathan Nolan were able to write a movie that’s this long and make it interesting the entire way through. The film starts off slow with a lot of physics talk and theories, but it all pays off when you see the physics in action when the astronauts blast off. The characters are also all really strong so spending a long amount of time with them is as dramatic and exciting as it can possibly be.

Finally, what would a review of this movie be without talking about the incredible effects and sound? Like Gravity, Nolan chose to make space totally silent in Interstellar, which is a great choice especially when something catastrophic is happening. There’s also a lot of great music by Hans Zimmer in the movie that can either make space beautiful or the situation of the astronauts deadly. One scene in particular when Cooper is trying to spin a ship to match the rotation of another part of the ship to dock had all three working in unison. The effects were dizzying and the silence of space mixed with Zimmer’s music made for the best part of the entire movie.

Prepare to be blown backwards and thrown all over the place by Interstellar, a movie that is sure to be recognized at this year’s Academy awards. It was a nice reminder, along with Birdman, that all of the excellent movies are going to be coming out. This one took science fiction and took it to a whole new level, along with philosophy. The same was done with the aforementioned 2001 and Solaris, and now Nolan’s true masterpiece continues the tradition. This was a mind boggling science fiction film of truly epic proportions.

 

The Muppet Christmas Carol – Review

25 Dec

Ever since I was a wee lad, The Muppet Christmas Carol has been played every Christmas Eve in my house without fail. It’s a longstanding tradition, and one that I look forward to every year, so how could I not talk about this movie? This may sound corny, but this is almost more than a movie to me. It’s a reminder of how joyous this season actually is and gets me more than ready for Christmas Day. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite Christmas movie.

Muppet_christmas_carol

 

Ebeneezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) is a nasty and cold business man who has no appreciation for anything besides money. That being said, Christmas is not a cheery time for him, but rather a time of foreclosures and spikes in business. One Christmas Eve night, his old partners, Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf) pay him a visit and warn him that if he doesn’t change his ways he will be punished with unbearably heavy chains in the afterlife. Three spirits visit Scrooge over the course of the night, representing the past, present, and future, with the mission to change Scrooge’s life for the better and save Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog) and his family.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is a great way for kids to really appreciate Charles Dickens’ story of the brighter side of the human spirit. A lot of children wouldn’t want to read the book, but they shouldn’t have to miss out on the story. The Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat are our narrators and both do a great job at providing a clear direction of the story and also excellent comedic relief after the more heavy scenes.

tumblr_lnoeoxa21C1qdg93e

 

And when I say heavy, I mean heavy. This one will tug at your heartstrings harder than you may think. When Tiny Tim sings “Bless Us All,” a small little tear always seems to form in my eye. Then I have to pretend I’m itching my face so my family doesn’t notice, and the whole thing just becomes a project, but I digress. What I’m saying is that this is a very emotional movie with one scene being fun and light hearted and the next stepping into a depressing realm of truthful sadness. In order to perfect your soul and appreciate what you have, you must first realize what you don’t have and Scrooge learns that the hard way.

Michael Caine’s performance as Scrooge is great. I’ve seen other adaptations of Dickens’ novel, but since I grew up with Caine’s version, he will always be my favorite. Scrooge’s character arc may be one of the most famous in the history of storytelling, and Michael Caine plays it very well. It’s easy to hate him in the beginning, feel sorry for him in the middle, and in the end you want to be his best friend.

Movie-MCC-Finale

 

Finally, I’d just like to comment on the remarkable sets. The streets are both cold but inviting and you automatically feel right at home with your surroundings. There’s also some instances, especially on Cratchit’s street, where the buildings look like they come out of some old German Expressionist film. The houses are crooked and the door ways are tilted in some obscene angles. It’s a minor way of really making this movie look different in its own special way. There’s also excellent uses of miniatures in the beginning when the credits roll. The viewer is treated to an aerial view of the city, complete with snowy rooftops and worn chimneys.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is a beautiful movie and will forever be my favorite Christmas film. It teaches its viewer, no matter what age, to appreciate your life and the lives of everyone around you not just during Christmas, but the whole year round. The music is excellent and will have you humming the songs for days to come, the jokes are always funny, and the performances by Caine and the muppets (and their puppeteers) are memorable. I love this movie so very much and can’t wait to watch it again next year.

Happy Holidays, everybody!